Florida has decided to try another strategy by 2024 for cannabis decriminalization, primarily because the previous plans have failed to scale.
Jonathan Robbins, the head of Akerman’s national cannabis practice, describes what legalizing cannabis for adult use would mean for current business owners and market seekers. To avoid what occurred to two previous ballot measures in 2022—rejection by the state’s Supreme Court—supporters of Florida’s adult-use cannabis initiative, are working to pass a “simple” measure in 2024.
The Bellamy Brothers, a group of country musicians, and Trulieve, a multistate company located in Tallahassee, have teamed up to promote the 2024 “Adult Personal Use of Marijuana” petition through a political campaign named Smart & Safe Florida. David Bellamy is the group’s leader, and Trulieve has contributed $10 million to its operation so far.
According to Jonathan Robbins, head of Akerman LLP’s national cannabis practice, simplicity is the key to guaranteeing that the Florida Supreme Court wouldn’t shut down the voting process this time.
“I think they made it very straightforward for that reason,” said Robbins, whose Florida-based firm represents Trulieve and some of the state’s 22 Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) and other companies looking to join the state’s medical program. MMTC is one of Florida’s top vertically integrated businesses.
Robbins claims that there is no clause in the adult-use ballot initiative for 2024 that would change the state’s mandate that licensees be vertically integrated from seed to sale. Structures or restrictions for licensing are not mentioned. Regarding wholesale commerce among MMTCs, nothing is said. He also said that social justice or equity projects were not mentioned.
Robbins believes a proposed measure’s wording ought to be brief and straightforward; this way, the Florida Supreme Court wouldn’t find faults in it. He predicted the proposal would probably have a very strong shot at getting on the ballot for 2024. He also noted that the previous two concepts got dismissed through language faults.
If voters pass the ballot initiative in 2024, state lawmakers would have the power to enact laws with a mid-2025 implementation date to uphold the state’s single-subject norm.
In an interview with Tony Lange, a reputable journalist in the U.S cannabis sector, Robbie shed more light on the possible impacts of the proposed measure on Florida’s cannabis market. He explained how adoption would influence existing and potential MMTCs.
Some of the important questions and answers during the interview can be found below.
Tony: What sets the petition for marijuana for adult use that Trulieve and The Bellamy Brothers are leading apart?
Jonathan: “Its simplicity makes it stand out in terms of having parts. The most expensive aspect of getting an initiative on the ballot is collecting the signatures, therefore [Trulieve] spent a significant amount of money on it. In Florida, you need about 900,000 signatures. And that is a costly endeavor.”
Robbins added, “When they do it, will the phrasing satisfy the Florida Supreme Court? And I think they kept it relatively simple because of that. Dismantling vertical integration is not mentioned. The mention of initiatives or programs that support social justice or equity is absent. I started to wonder if they hadn’t done that on purpose to avoid any misunderstandings or complaints that the language wasn’t crisp and clear enough to convey what the voters were selecting.”
Tony: You contend that the 2024 proposal’s simplicity prohibits the Supreme Court from interfering, as it did with the 2022 measures.
Jonathan: “I think it would be challenging for the Supreme Court to reject the 2024 measure since this constitutional amendment is comparable to the one we had in 2016 and is a constitutional amendment. Before 2016, Florida’s medical program generally comprised of a high-CBD, low-THC program, despite the fact that people wanted [a high-THC program]. However, the legislature just wasn’t ready to do anything about it. They finally had to put a well-funded constitutional amendment on the ballot for a more comprehensive program down here, which resulted in the program we have today thanks to voter approval in 2016. At least we have a legal medical cannabis program where patients can actually get the drug their doctor has recommended, despite the fact that it is far from ideal.”
Tony: Do you think the state will provide those more licenses before the election in 2024? Based on patient data, the Florida Health Department was supposed to have awarded 20 or more new MMTC licenses at this point.
Jonathan: “I really hope so. Since 2017, a lot of my clients have made promises to apply for licenses; now, they are all extremely keen to do so. Despite the fact that we have 22 licenses, we have never really had a formal application process. An application process was held for the first five high-CBD, low-THC licenses back in 2015. Five of them were given out. Since that time, 17 further licenses have been obtained as a consequence of judicial settlements.”
Tony: What impact will the ballot measure have on the state’s licensing system and the creation of new licenses if it passes in 2024?
Jonathan: Neither the number of extra licenses to be granted nor how they will be granted are mentioned in the constitutional change. We’ll leave it up to the Legislature, it says. The most recent constitutional amendment, passed in 2016, did not impose restrictions on the number of licenses. The requirement for total vertical integration was unnecessary. In truth, it was made clear in the letter of intent that they were not seeking full vertical integration. Because only around 16 licenses were available at the time, the Legislature essentially said “Nope,” from seed to sale. That’s all, then. The Florigrown case stemmed from our disagreement with the validity of the caps and the requirement for total vertical integration.
Jonathan Robbins is one of many optimistic Floridians who believe this new proposed measure will be approved come 2024. Pro-cannabis residents in the state are urged to append their signatures when due to ensure the bill passes smoothly.